February 25, 2019 7 min read 1 Comment

Most children could tell you that wood and water don’t go well together. Yet it’s rare that a day goes by where we don’t receive some sort of inquiry about planter drainage and how to water plants without staining, or for that matter, destroying floors and furniture.


These are incredibly valid concerns because most planters don’t come with a plate, tray, stand, raisers, you name it — to allow access water to collect underneath the planter — and some don’t even have holes. If you’ve recently purchased a new planter for your indoor plants and haven’t planned or considered that you need a base, tray, plate, stand, OR something to essentially collect the access water that is not being absorbed by the plant every time you water it, you’ll end up staining your expensive wooden or antique furniture. What’s worse is that if you don’t catch this on time, you’ll end up rotting or molding that heirloom wooden table in no time.


How do you create harmony and peaceful living environment for your plant, planter, and all furniture involved? Well if you’re lucky enough to find a planter with an attached saucer or tray, do a happy dance. On a sunny windowsill, this plant would do great and the wood surface beneath would remain unstained as long as you’re not watering it there (more on that later). But the chance of finding a planter that you love with an attached drainage plate, drip tray, or some sort of stand probably isn’t very likely. Plus, if the pot is an irregular shape (like ours are…), what do you do then?

So, without further ado, here’s everything you ever wanted to know about drainage holes and houseplants.

Before we get started, let’s review a few basic plant and planter facts:

  1. Drainage Is Critical to Plant Health -Almost every plant needs drainage (except water plants).
  2. All concrete (and clay ceramic, terra-cotta, or fiberglass) planters have the potential to “sweat” when watered (regardless of the temperature and how much you water!)
  3. Avoid watering plants on any surface that could become stained and let them drain well before returning them.
  4. Placing a drainage plate, drip tray, stand, raisers, pot feet, etc. under your planter is essential to protect and maintain the surface underneath.

Drainage Is Critical to Plant Health

The first recommendation we always give our customers is that if you’re planning on planting a real living plant inside any of our planters - we highly advise that you keep and take full advantage of the drainage holes already included on each of our planters! A hole at the bottom of any planter is absolutely critical if you plan to keep that plant alive and healthy. Planters without drainage holes are more likely to develop root rot and kill the plant, whereas planters with drainage will allow the water in the soil to drain freely and provide adequate air for the roots. While various kinds of plants have differing drainage needs, few can tolerate sitting in stagnate water. Healthy roots mean healthier plants, so regardless of where you ultimately plan to place your new plant+ planter, be sure there is at least one hole for drainage if not more.

Concrete Is Porous (It Absorbs & Releases WATER!)

Concrete planters, like the ones we carry, are porous, which allow for water and air to permeate the walls of the containers. This absorption and evaporation of moisture is 100% normal and is to be expected with any concrete or cast-stone container. Because concrete is porous, the material itself provides superior drainage over glazed ceramic and plastic, which will often cause the container to appear as though it is sweating or has formed a thin layer of “frost” around the outer surface. Last but certainly not least, due to its porous nature, we always recommend placing some sort of protective tray, plate, stand, etc. underneath your concrete planter (both indoors and outdoors) in order to allow the water that is ALWAYS permeating the concrete to have a place to expel itself! Like most porous materials, the transfer of water and humidity onto a table will leave and stain the surface with white rings if moisture gets trapped under them. Leave it like that for long enough and you’re just asking for mold, mildew, and rot to accumulate.

Concrete is just one of the many examples of a container material that could possibly affect the health of your plants as well as your furniture, if not cared for properly, so being aware of the material of your planter(s) (and the characteristics it takes on) is just as important as caring for the plant itself.

Water All Plants Away from Furniture & Floors

Want to know the number one to avoid destroying your furniture and floors? Don't water your plants on or near the furniture or hardwood floor! Simply watering where the plant is placed will eventually cause staining, damage, and worse because it’s too easy for water to build up and seep through.

Instead, when it’s time to water, we take our plants to the kitchen sink, give ‘em good soak, and let them drain in the sink, or even on a towel on the counter for a FEW HOURS (or sometimes overnight) before returning them to their designated places. If possible, assign a day (or two if the weather’s warm) out of the week as watering day and gather your houseplants in the bathroom, kitchen, or outdoor space and water them all down. Then, walk away. Seriously go check Instagram and distract yourself with something else. Allow your planters to completely drain - like 100% of the way - before returning them to their original surface! Did we mention that you need to let them drain well?


If this is entirely impossible and you cannot physically move your planter to allow it to drain each time you water it, here a few more tips so you’ll avoid staining and damaging your expensive furniture and floors:

Water with Ice Cubes

Most houseplants can survive without a steady supply of water. Busy gardeners often use ice cubes to prevent the issue of stains and overwatering. Plus, because ice cubes melt slowly, it gives the plant time to absorb the water it needs.Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Place 1-3 ice cubes on the surface of the soil. Use more ice cubes for very large containers.
  2. Let the ice cubes melt completely.
  3. Check the soil with your finger, if it’s is moist, the plant has received enough water.
  4. If it is dry, add another ice cube. Check the soil's moisture level again when the ice cube melts.
  5. Continue to add ice cubes until the soil feels moist ensuring not to overwater by consistently checking the tray under the container for pooling water.
  6. If the tray fills with water, you put too many ice cubes in the container. Reduce the number of ice cubes given next time you water.
  7. Note the number of ice cubes it takes to thoroughly water the plant. You may need to increase or decrease the number of ice cubes given if you move the plant indoors or outdoors.

Creatively Protect Furniture & Surfaces

There are also attractive ways to protect your furniture and floors. Use what you have on hand & add to the heirloom look! Place a pretty plate, a silver-plated tray, a vintage-looking textile, or crystal dish under your plants to give them a rustic bohemian aesthetic that just screams #urbanunjungle. Here are a few more creative and budget-friendly ideas to protect furniture:

  1. Cork pads: We use these under the planter of any plant that I have potted in soil and intend to water in its pot. The pad keeps the planter from scratching the surface underneath, and its plastic backing keeps any “sweating” the saucer may produce from damaging wood surfaces. You can also use cork pads as saucers under small planters with plants that don’t require a lot of water, like succulents. It may seem like overkill, but every pot will leak at some point—hopefully not on your vintage oak table.
  2. Plastic saucers: Although some will scoff at how unattractive and unsightly plastic trays or saucers are, they could save the life of your furniture and floors. They are cheap, last long, and get the job of collecting access water that’s drained out of your planter into a tray rather than the surface of your home.
  3. Pot risers, stands, or feet: These work by lifting the pot off the ground and providing good air circulation. We typically use pot feet on larger planters that we can’t take to the sink to water. Essentially, you’ll need to elevate the planter off the ground about an inch or so, allowing the water that drains out to avoid sitting directly under the planter. If you use this method indoors, make sure you use a cork pad or tray under the planter, as you will have standing water from time to time). Of course, the best use for pot feet is outside on a deck. We often hear that customers have purchased a planter for their deck and are then horrified when they move the planter and see everything rotted underneath. Raising your planter or giving it some cute little pot feet will solve this problem and allow all that trapped water underneath a chance to dry out.

Key Takeaway

It is possible to have your house plants and nice furniture coexist with one another, you just need to be prepared and take the extra time and consideration when you water them. It’s TOTALLY possible to avoid destroying your wood or antique furniture and floors by:

    1. Avoiding watering plants on this surface and let them drain well before returning them.
    2. Placing a drainage plate, drip tray, stand, raisers, pot feet, etc. under your planter is essential to protect and maintain the surface underneath
    3. EXTRA CREDIT BONUS: ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, opt for a planter WITH A DRAINAGE HOLE if you wanna keep your plants alive

Don’t be afraid to bring a few plants into your space because you’re afraid of a few simple instructions —start off with easy plants to care for, like succulents, money trees or evergreen lilies. Once you get into your groove with watering and maintaining your houseplants, it becomes fun — and well worth the little extra work. 


1 Response

Daniela B.
Daniela B.

February 03, 2021

This article was so helpful! I got cork boards and saucers for my plants… didn’t even know they were a thing! My indoor plants look so much better. And now I know the furniture is safe. Thank you so much!

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